The Center for People in Needs' in-house computer lab
Lynette Maes stands inside the Center for People in Need’s Computer Lab, where future students will work on the Google certification course. Photo by Josie Dostal, NNS.

The Center for People in Need in Lincoln received almost $600,000 to launch a local Google Career Certification Program that will train 40 people a year. Six local Lincoln agencies were awarded a total of $12 million in grants through the American Rescue Plan on March 10.

The program allows individuals who are unemployed or underemployed to receive accredited training in IT support, data analytics, project management, UX design or Android development through a self-paced, online program that will take the students three to six months to complete. 

The Center for People in Need currently offers free tuition at Southeast Community College for low-income individuals through its People Obtaining Prosperity Scholarship Program.

Lynette Maes, the manager of the POP Program, said she has been working on getting the Google Career Certification program launched for the past two years so people have the option of education with a shorter completion time instead of the two-year community college track. 

“I‘ve been trying to figure out a way to get shorter-term training for our students because a lot of them have kids and busy lives,” Maes said. “So that this way they can get into better-paying jobs quicker.”

Maes said the program is needed for two reasons: to get people into the job market and to help the community fill its need for workers in the tech industry. 

 “It gets people who are not earning a living wage, to be able to have the skill set to provide for their family and to be able to be successful and just live,” Maes said. 

Maes said the Center for People in Need will host the certification four times throughout the year with 10 students completing the course at a time. Applicants will have to complete a skills assessment through Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. There will also be a face-to-face interview at the Center for People in Need for potential students. 

“I want to make sure that people that are coming in really have kind of a drive, you know, because it’s one thing to get in there and decide it’s not for you, but it’s another thing to you know, just not put the effort in,” Maes said.

The program is open to anyone who has graduated from high school and is classified as a low-income individual, but the anticipated average age for the program will be people ages 33-35. Maes said that the Center for People in Need wants to focus the program on people who may not know that they have the aptitude or experience to work in the tech field but have the skill set to be successful. 

“It might be somebody that’s working in construction right now, but they’re really good at statistics and they might be fantastic at Data Analytics,” Maes said. “I want to think outside the box, and that’s what we’re going to do in marketing as well as with this program.”

The Center for People in Need will provide wrap-around services through WIOA to students in the program that will help eliminate any barriers that low-income students may face. Gas vouchers, childcare stipends, food boxes and emergency situation funding, such as funding to pay for shut-off utilities will all be available to these students if needed. The center also budgeted a $100 stipend in the grant for students to purchase interview clothes, Maes said. 

Maes said students will be encouraged to complete the majority of the course at the Center for People in Need’s in-house computer lab, which is located at 3901 N. 27th St. in Lincoln. 

“We’ll have the computer lab open during the classroom time. And we’ll also have some times open that it’s just a free lab,” Maes said. “I think the beneficial part is if they have questions, they can have them answered in person while they’re here.”

Kathy Najjar, the EduTech program coordinator, will be in the computer lab making sure students are on track with completing the course. 

“Part of my job is to push them along, you know, emailing them Monday, Wednesday, Friday,” Najjar said. “The faster we get people in the workforce, the better off they are over the long run.”

Najjar is planning to complete one of the courses before the students start so she will have an understanding of what the students are going through while completing the course.

“I think it’s important to model it,” Najjar said. “You know, we can’t grow lifelong learners if we’re not lifelong learners ourselves. To me, that’s the most important thing.”

The grant will fund the program for three years and give out certificates to 120 students; however, Maes is hopeful that the program will show success and be able to obtain funding from other sources after the three years.

This grant was awarded to six agencies that will help train workers for jobs in health care, manufacturing, information technology, youth employment and child care over the next three years. The city and county officials worked together to decide which agencies that applied for the grant would be awarded the money. 

Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird said these grants represent major investments in workforce development. 

“Ensuring workers have access to rewarding and financially secure careers that enable them to provide for themselves and their families is a top priority,” Baird said.

Senior Journalism/ Advertising and Public Relations major.